On the road in Louisiana: Audubon Trail blends nature, culture, golf in Bayou State

By David R. Holland, Senior Writer

MANY, La. - Hidden coves provide shelter for lunkers on Toledo Bend Reservoir - justone spot that gives Louisiana its tag as a Sportsman'sParadise. From your bass boat you have a front-rowseat for a sunset worthy of putting your mind intoslow motion.

As you make another cast, in the distance is the water-hugging 14th hole of Cypress Bend Resort. Westward is the Texas shoreline. And each day the golf pro boards a boat and rides to work.

Life in Louisiana - visions are vivid in the Bayou State. Imagine Spanish moss-draped oaks, towering pines, alligator crossings amongst swamps, jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish, crab boil.

Louisiana is Doug Kershaw, fiddle in hand, bowing a tune on a pontoon dance hall. And it's a Cajun dialect that stops a Yankee dead in his tracks with a look of puzzlement.

Add picturesque, fun golf to the recipe.

Don't miss exploring Louisiana's rich and colorful history when you come here for golf. The Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial is being celebrated in 2003, and perhaps no culture parties harder than those in this land, once ruled by the French and Spanish.

The people? You won't find down-to-earth folks anymore engaging and friendly in the USA. They honorLouisiana culture with a unique rhythm - zydecoswing, jazz riffs, Cajun and gospel harmonies.

Travel from the banks of the Red River to the curves of the Mississippi River to find Louisiana's 160 golf opportunities - the majority highly affordable. Glance at a magnolia tree flowering in the spring on an Audubon Golf Trail course.

You could even stop and chat with two of the state's most famous PGA Tour players. The Shreveport-Bossier City area claims David Toms and Hal Sutton as neighbors.

"Louisiana is not the first state one thinks of when golf is mentioned," said Sutton, who designed the 27 holes of Olde Oaks Golf Club under the Jack Nicklaus design-team banner. "But this is a state you can come to and expect to be treated well and there are a lot of good courses being built here."

Take this as the 2004 Ryder Cup Captain's invitationto visit and play golf in his home state. Here's acapsule look at some of the courses of the AudubonGolf Trail, which honors nature artist John JamesAudubon.

Olde Oaks Golf Club in Haughton

Near the Shreveport-Bossier City gambling mecca, Olde Oaks Golf Club's 27 holes on 340 acres are memorable, and the parking lot is loaded with cars from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

"Olde Oaks is user friendly with some rolls of theland uncharacteristic to this part of the state,"designer Sutton said, "but I think the coursechallenges the scratch golfer and is fun and playablefor the high handicapper."

This Sutton signature course had design help fromKevin Tucker for the Meadows, Cypress and Oak nineswhich snake through a former cotton plantation in alinks style. The Oak layout features an 80-acre lakethat comes into play on several holes. The routinguses mounding, lots of water danger, native grassesand a GPS system on each cart.

After your round relax, have a cool brew, and grabsome chow at The Grill in the expanding clubhouse,where Mr. Sutton has an office.

Gray Plantation in Lake Charles

Step back in time to a classic on the banks of the Calcasieu River. Built in 1999, Rocky Roquemore's art work stretches out 6,946 yards, a par 72 that was ranked No. 3 on Golf Digest's list of America's Best New Courses in 2000.

Nature rules here with awesome landscaping, 60 acresof water coming into play on 12 holes, 94 sand trapsand tall pines strategically stationed. The par 3s,two with island greens, are the most fun.

Enjoy southern hospitality at The Clubhouse, a raisedplantation house surrounded by scenic marshland. Theback porch is a great place to discuss your birdiesand bogeys of the day and have lunch.

The Lake Charles area is part of Cajun Country. Nearbyyou can gamble at its casinos or drive the 180-mileCreole Nature Trail, Louisiana's only National ScenicByway.

Cypress Bend Resort in Many

The views are spectacular around every bend, twist and turn of the Cypress Bend fairways. There's no way to escape the scenery - concentration can drift as golfer's stare at the 186,000-acre Toledo Bend Reservoir, noted for its bass fishing.

Ten holes on the 6,707-yard, par 72, hug the waterwith six daring carries over coves and bayous. Thesurrounding hardwood forests and a few blind drivesgrab countless wayward shots, then the undulatinggreens add to Cypress Bend's challenge and beauty.

Be sure and enjoy your visit with a stay at theCypress Bend Resort and Conference Center with itsbrand-new over-sized rooms and comfortable amenities.Dining in the clubhouse is excellent or relax in thespacious pub with views of the 18th hole and the lake.

The course is close to historic Natchitoches, themagnificent 4,700-acre Hodges Gardens and theplantations on Cane River.

Again, this Louisiana resort is very convenient forTexans - Houston and Dallas golfers give Cypress Bendlots of business.

There are other golf courses of the Audubon Trail -log on to audubongolf.com for capsules of thosecourses. Every course is a member of the AudubonCooperative Sanctuary for Golf Courses.

Coming attraction

The TPC of Louisiana at Fairfield (tpc.com) is set to open in April 2004. This 7,300-yard, par-72 Pete Dye-design will be an immediate member of the Audubon Golf Trail. PGA Tour player Steve Elkington and Louisiana native Kelly Gibson are consulting on the design.

The TPC of Louisiana will be located just 15 minutesfrom the French Quarter of New Orleans and is thefuture home of the HP Classic of New Orleans, thestate's only PGA Tour event. Call (866)-NOLA-TPC formore information.

Planning your trip

Audubon Golf Trail
audubongolf.com
Telephone, vacation planning, tee times: (866)AGT-IN-LA
LouisianaTravel.com

Where to play

Olde Oaks Golf Club
60 Golf Club Drive
Haughton, LA 71037
(318) 742-0333
oldeoaksgolf.com

Cypress Bend Golf Resort and Conference Center
2000 Cypress Bend Parkway
Many, LA 71449
Toll Free: (877) 519-1500
(318) 590-1500
cypressbend.com

Gray Plantation
6150 Graywood Parkway
Lake Charles, LA 70605
(337) 562-1663
graywood.net

Additional Audubon Trail member courses

The Bluffs on Thompson Creek, St. Francisville, LA
(888) 634-5222

The Island, Plaquemine, LA
(225) 687-8723

Tamahka Trails Golf Club, Marksville, LA
(318) 240-6300

Calvert Crossing, Calhoun, LA
(318) 666-9191

Golfweek's America's Best Public AccessCourses

Louisiana

1. Bluffs on Thompson Creek GC, St. Francisville
2. Belle Terre CC, La Place
3. Mallard Cove GC, Lake Charles
4. Gray Plantation GC, Lake Charles
5. Tamahka Trails GC, Marksville

Where to stay

Cypress Bend Golf Resort and Conference Center
2000 Cypress Bend Parkway
Many, LA 71449
Toll Free: (877) 519-1500
(318) 590-1500
cypressbend.com

Horseshoe Casino & Hotel Bossier City
711 Horseshoe Blvd.
Bossier City, LA 71111
(800) 895-0711
horseshoe.com/bossiercity

Harrah´s Lake Charles
505 N. Lakeshore Drive
Lake Charles, LA 70601
(337) 437-1500
harrahs.com/our_casinos/lch/

Where to Dine

Jack Binion's Steak House, Horseshoe Casino & Hotel,Bossier City
Olde Oaks Golf Club Grill, Haughton
Gray Plantation Restaurant, Lake Charles
Cypress Dining Room, Cypress Bend Resort, Many
The Cafe at the Clubhouse, Cypress Bend Resort

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Senior Writer

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter at @David_R_Holland.


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